Friday, September 25, 2009

“I’m thinking about writing a grant proposal.”

This is the second of six posts on the different stages of grant proposals.

You’re at a point in your research where you’re envisioning an experiment that will be able to prove your theory or at least give you a much better understanding of certain principles. The setback – the experiment costs much more than the funds you have available.

So, you’re thinking about writing a grant proposal. Somewhere out there, there are the means to buy the equipment or resources you need. At this stage, key questions to be asking are:

What’s the goal of your project or research?
Being able to clearly express a well-defined goal for your research won’t just keep you focused, it will also help in getting you funds. In grant applications, the better you can express this, the better your chances of winning the grant.

How much interest is there in your research area?
Like celebrities, there are research topics that can suddenly become very popular. Of course, you probably wouldn’t be researching something that wasn’t already of interest to others. If your research is “on fire” (as in, trending upward in popularity in journals… not as in “pyrology”), then keep this in mind as fuel for your grant application.

Who could you collaborate with?
Givers of grants love that their money can be used by and give benefit to many. Instead of competing for funding with others, is there anyone who’s doing similar research with whom you can share the equipment and collaborate?

How much funding will you need?
That dreamboat equipment – how much is it going to cost? Collect ballpark prices from potential vendors or prepare a cost estimate if you have to develop the equipment in house.

What are possible funding sources?

Beyond the department, faculty, and NSF, what other associations might have interest in funding your research? Are there any grants given by local or state/provincial governments? What companies might have interest in sponsoring your research?

Who’s won funding for similar projects?
If someone’s succeeded where you want to succeed – contact them. Be open about what you’re doing and prepare questions in advance. It’s flattering to be asked for advice.

OK, you’ve asked yourself these questions and identified a grant. Now, it’s time to commit to writing something.

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